Small businesses are transferring more and more operations into the digital realm. The benefits of doing so in terms of revenue, productivity, and growth are simply too good to pass up. However, this migration has its downsides as well. The most common one is the looming threat of cyber-attacks.
Relying on digital technology makes SMBs more vulnerable to malicious third-parties. Hackers want to steal your data, disrupt your workflows and compromise your devices. Cyber-attacks are a serious threat to companies of all sizes. Large corporations usually have the resources to tackle one without major disruption. But, small businesses risk suffering irreparable damage. For this reason, cybersecurity should be high on the priority list for any small business.
The first step in improving cybersecurity is knowing where the threat is coming from.
So what are today’s most common vectors of cyber-attack? We have written a short primer on the topic which you can find in the rest of this post.
Spear Phishing is a Major Cybersecurity Threat
Phishing is still one of the most used forms of cyber-attack. It is an attempt to get passwords, bank account numbers and other forms of sensitive data. Phishing leverages social engineering techniques such as impersonation and spoofing. They deceive targets to willingly give away information.
Spear phishing is a specialized form of phishing that has gained a lot of notoriety in recent years. Regular phishing targets random people in a company. Spear phishing targets specific individuals within the organization. It is especially dangerous from a small business perspective. Companies should work towards improving cybersecurity awareness among their staff. They can do this through specialized employee training.
Beware of Crypto-jacking
Crypto-jacking is a form of attack that seeks to exploit the resources of the target’s computer. The goal is to mine cryptocurrency in the background. Crypto-jacking attacks get the target to click on a link that will lead them to a prepared website. A piece of malicious code will be executed, infecting their machine. Crypto-mining is a CPU-intensive process. The infected machine will tend to experience major slowdowns.
Crypto-jacking exploded in popularity in recent years. This is mainly due to the inflation of the cryptocurrency market. But, also because of the media spectacle that followed in its wake. Crypto-jacking is especially dangerous to small businesses. The infection can easily spread to multiple machines on the network. All operations can come to a halt. Crypto-jacking relies on browser scripts to function. Disable them through an extension such as NoScript. It can be an effective way to protect your computers from attack.
Shadow IT on the Rise
A lot of people still don’t know about the problem of shadow it. It refers to the apps and software employees use without the knowledge of the IT department. This practice enables hackers and cybercriminals to exploit these uncontrolled and vulnerable systems. IT departments cannot take care of these security gaps. They do not even know they exist within their organization.
The main problem with shadow IT is that employees are usually unaware of its risks. IT leaders have to educate employees on the risks of shadow IT. Put in place strict internal policies and procedures along with mandatory cybersecurity training. You should also compile a list of safe IT vendors for all employees. This way, you ensure that no one uses any apps, software or services outside of the ones that are the safest.
There over 181.5 million ransomware attacks in the first half of 2018 alone. Thus, ransomware is one of the top cybersecurity threats today. A ransomware attack works by preventing the victim to use their machine. They achieve this through a locking mechanism. The device is locked until the victim pays the ransom. Advanced ransomware uses encryption techniques to make the target’s files completely inaccessible. Without the appropriate key, there is nothing the victim can do.
Ransomware and Cybersecurity
Ransomware attacks are usually carried out using Trojans. They Hackers disguise them as a regular file. The target downloads and opens the file. Ransomware can infect a machine that holds vital business data. This can jeopardize the whole company. Ransomware is hard to detect through conventional security software. The best line of defence is prevention through awareness. Combine this with regular data backups.
Fake Mobile Apps
Using the same mobile device for both personal and business matters is becoming the norm. Once hackers caught on to the fact, they scrambled to develop exploits. They would tap into business-related data stored on mobile devices. Fake apps are the latest incarnation of this trend. A report published by Avast states that fake apps are the biggest security threat in 2019.
Fake apps can carry different payloads, from ransomware, to crypto-jacking scripts, to spyware. Unfortunately, they are very effective. Hackers download a legitimate app, alter its code, and then publish it under a similar name. Encourage your employees to have separate devices for business and personal use.
Weak Passwords Destroy Cybersecurity
Weak passwords are still among the top cybersecurity threats small business face. Hackers use a myriad of tools to crack weak passwords. It’s only logical that employees should strengthen their password game. Instead of using “john1984” as a password, it’s better to put three or four random words in a sequence. For example, your password might look like this: “elevatordogsocean”.
Employees tend to forget long and complicated passwords. Thus, they resort to using something easy to remember. This usually ends up being a combination of their first or last name and/or date of birth. Educate your employees on how to create stronger passwords. Your business will be much less likely to suffer a costly data breach.
Securing Your Digital Assets in 2019
The rise of the digital economy was both a blessing and a curse for small businesses. Availability of software and hardware enables them to compete against the big players. But, they also became susceptible to new forms of attack, which they are ill equipped to handle. Precautionary measures make possible for small businesses to reduce and prevent damage. Implementing them and get acquainted with the current state of cybersecurity. This way, you will prepare your business for the worst.